Cancercare’s Panorama Oncology Centre in Cape Town can now offer patients both standard and highly complex radiation therapy treatment, following an upgrade in which the facility was equipped with the latest state-of-the-art linear accelerator (linac).

Dr Redmund Nel, one of Cancercare’s oncologists, says the centre is now able to provide stereotactic radio surgery to cancers involving the brain and stereotactic body radiation therapy to cancers elsewhere in the body.

“Both techniques entail administering high dose complex radiation therapy very accurately to the cancer for a short treatment time, improving patient comfort and the effectiveness of the treatment,” said Dr Nel.

The new Elekta Synergy Linear Accelerator was installed in October 2016 when Equra Health upgraded its radiation therapy facility at Cancercare’s Panorama Oncology Centre.

CEO of Medical Specialist Holdings (MSH) – the holding company that was formed in 2016 to streamline the business activities of Equra Health and Isimo Health, Dr Jacques Snyman, notes that the upgrade is in line with the MSH group’s move to more patient-centric, value-based care; with up-to-date facilities at all centres and strategically-placed centres of excellence around the country.

“The Cancercare Oncology Centre will be one of three facilities with this specific equipment, while all of our facilities are part of an on-going programme to deliver value-based excellence in patient care,” said Dr Snyman.

“By staying abreast of the latest technologies and treatment modalities, and working closely with academic institutions, we ensure that we are able to drive better clinical outcomes for patients around the country,” continued Dr Snyman.

Elekta’s Business Unit Manager for Africa, Yunus Munga, added: “With more than 100,000 new cancer cases diagnosed each year, South Africa’s cancer burden is becoming increasingly overwhelming for the country’s health care system. Investments in radiation therapy are in line with recommendations by the Lancet Oncology Commission, which says that radiotherapy not only enables treatment of large numbers of cancer cases to save lives, but also brings positive economic benefits.”

Dr Nel says the linac has a kilo-voltage cone beam CT scanner which enables the radiation therapists and radiation oncologist to effectively visualise the cancer and normal tissue before the treatment. In this way, they ensure that the treatment is administered accurately.

“We now use a planning and delivery system known as volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) which enables us to administer effective radiation doses to the cancer, while limiting the dose to normal tissue. This results in fewer side effects and improves our ability to expose the cancer to effective doses,” said Dr Nel.

According to Dr Nel, the centre now also benefits from a flattening filter-free radiation therapy technique, which enables staff to administer the radiation therapy over a much shorter time. This means that patients have to spend less time on the treatment couch, while more accurate treatment can be administered, sparing normal tissue and resulting in fewer side effects and improved control of cancer.

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